Anat Rec (Hoboken) 2016 Jan 30;299(1):70-80. Epub 2015 Oct 30.
División Antropología, Museo de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque S/N. 1900 La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Most studies on craniofacial morphology have focused on adult individuals, but patterns of variation are the outcome of genetic and epigenetic variables that interact throughout ontogeny. Among cranial regions, the orbits exhibit morphological variation and occupy an intermediate position between neurocranial and facial structures. The main objective of this work was to analyze postnatal ontogenetic variation and covariation in the morphology of the orbital region in a cross-sectional series of humans from 0 to 31 years old. Landmarks and semilandmarks were digitized on the orbital rim, as well as in neighboring neural and facial structures. Data were analyzed using geometric morphometrics. Results indicated that orbital size increases during the first years of postnatal life, while the shape of the orbital aperture does not change significantly with age. In general, the pattern and magnitude of shape covariation do not vary markedly during postnatal life although some subtle shifts were documented. Additionally, the shape of the orbital aperture is more related to the anterior neurocranium than to zygomatic structures, even when the allometry is adjusted. Although we expected some influence from postnatal craniofacial growth and from some functional factors, such as mastication, on the development of the orbits, this assumption was not completely supported by our results. As a whole, our findings are in line with the prediction of an early influence of the eyes and extraocular tissues on orbital morphology, and could be interpreted in relation to processes promoting early neural development that coordinately affects orbital traits and the neurocranial skeleton.